A Training Marathon in the Black Forest

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Yesterday I was up at 4:30 a.m. and, after a small breakfast, on my way to the beautiful resort town of Schoemberg. Schoemberg is located about 20 minutes south of Pforzheim in the foothills of the Black Forest and is a very popular hiking region. Each year Schoemberg sponsors a Wandertag, or hiking day, where hiking fans can walk the IVV 10K, 20K, Marathon or 50K trails.

My plan was to run at least the first 3-1/2 hours of the marathon trail, as preparation for my upcoming 50-mile race in three weeks. As I arrived at the sports hall around 6:15, there were already dozens of people on the way. I picked up my start card, threw on my CamelBak and started out. The marathon and 50K trail followed the road I had just driven for about a kilometer before ducking off into the woods. The 10K and 20K trail headed off in the other direction.

It was a bit cool outside (around 55F) for a short sleeve running shirt and shorts, but I warmed up quickly. The trail was more or less flat for the first 10 minutes, but then started heading downhill on a winding logging trail. I settled into an easy pace and concentrated on enjoying the very scenic forest trails.

Every 4-5 kilometers (estimated – the trail was not marked) was a “control station”, where I received a stamp on my start card (proving I passed this point) and water or tea. It was also possible to buy something to eat, but I had everything I needed with me.

I passed dozens of hikers as the kilometers clicked away. I also played cat and mouse with another runner who said he was running the 50K trail. I finally lost the runner when he stopped to eat something at a control station. The trail up to this point had been a nice mix of gravel and dirt logging trails, single track trails, and sidewalks, the latter as we passed through some small towns. After an initial long downhill, the trail seem to weave it self over several small valleys. There were lots of hills, but none steep enough to warrant walking.

After around 2 hours, the marathon and 50K trails split and I turned onto the marathon trail. I had been running everything up to this point, stopping only to get my stamp at each control station. As I continued on the trail switched to single track and climbed up one of the larger hills of the day. As I ran along a ridge the view of the wooded valley below was breathtaking. However as the way grew rougher I didn’t dare take my eyes of the trail, as I had to traverse roots, rocks and trees – real trail running!

After three hours or so the trail headed over several grassy fields and eventually back onto some logging trails. I stopped at a control station and ate a PB & Honey sandwich that I had with me. The folks at the station said I was the second one so far for the marathon, another had been through about a half hour before. I took a salt tablet and aspirin to combat growing fatigue in my legs, then headed out again.

The trail mileage was not marked, so I really was not so sure how far I had to go still. Eventually the marathon and 50K trail merged together again, it had been almost 1-1/2 hours since I had seen anyone on the trails, so it was motivating when I finally saw a few people as the trail merged with the 20K trail. By this time I had been running for around 3-1/2 hours, and guessed I must have between 10-12 kilometers to go. I had planned on taking walking breaks every 25 minutes, but I had only taken one so far, on the steepest hill. My legs felt good, so I decided to keep running.

I passed dozens of walkers on the 20K trail, including a couple Americans, but I knew if I stopped to visit I would stiffen up, so kept going. The trail merged with the 10K trail at around 4 hours. I guessed there must be 7-8 kilometers to go, which put me much farther ahead as I thought. Shortly after this I passed a sign that said “Schoemberg 5 kilometers”, but figured the trail would wind around and it would be much longer than that.

My legs began to tire and I started thinking about taking a walk break. I had been running through a thick forest for about a half hour and saw daylight ahead, thinking there must be a field coming up. I decided to run to the field, then take a break. As I emerged from the woods I was very surprised to see a town a few hundred meters ahead, and the parking lot of the sports center!

I jogged in the last half kilometer reaching the sport hall in 4 hours 25 minutes, 12 minutes faster than my finishing time for the Mannheim Marathon a few weeks before! What's up with that?

I picked up my certificate for completing the event, then took a shower. I chatted with a few of the wanderers while eating some lunch of braten and spatzele, then headed home. My legs were a bit tired when I got home, but felt better than after some long runs. After resting for an hour I felt good enough to go shopping with my wife, imagine that.

Schoemberg, in the northern Black Forest, is an incredibly beautiful area. I completed several hikes here in the 1990’s, including the marathon, and am still enchanted with the dark forest paths and rolling fields. This year it served as a wonderful training opportunity for my 50-mile race. If I feel half as good during this race as I did in Schoemberg it will be a good year.

3 Comments

Well done, Jack. Are you sure it was really 42 km? I don't mean to doubt your ability, but it seems strange that you would be able to run a trail training run faster than a road race.

In any case, it seems like you had a fantastic training run.

Well done, Jack!

Great job!!! You need to be some sort of level of Marathon Maniac club!!

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This page contains a single entry by Jack published on June 8, 2008 3:02 PM.

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